Ball go far, team go far. That has been the mantra of the Yankees in recent seasons, and that’s how they drew it up today. Courtesy of a trio of home runs from Aaron Judge, Marwin Gonzalez, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the Yankees held off the Minnesota Twins, 5-2, for their second-straight win.
Jameson Taillon had a tall task ahead of him as he took the mound for the Labor Day matinee. Even if the Yankees lineup had been firing on all cylinders, he was up against a Twins offense that roughed him up in June and which, by all accounts, is a top-five lineup in the American League. But the Yankees’ hitters have been the definition of ice cold, having scored just three runs over the last three days — all by the MVP frontrunner Judge. Taillon’s margin for error was paper-thin.
For the most part, Taillon worked well within that margin. He bowled down opposing hitters for the first four innings, not allowing a runner to reach scoring position. The Twins got to him in the fifth, when former batterymate Gary Sánchez blasted a monstrous game-tying, two-run home run into the left-field bleachers — a place that he visited many times during his time in pinstripes. Despite allowing three other hits in the inning, he managed to escape the frame without allowing another run, thanks in large part to strong defense, courtesy of Oswaldo Cabrera’s fourth outfield assist in just his 11th game out there.
Overall, Taillon’s final line wasn’t eye-popping, as he allowed two runs on six hits in five innings, striking out three and walking two. In today’s game, however, in which teams go to their bullpen earlier than ever, that’s virtually a quality start: as noted on the YES broadcast, teams have been 86-60 this season when their starter goes five innings and surrenders two runs.
Of course, as also noted on the broadcast, the team success can only occur when your offense scores runs for your starter. Fortunately, the Yankees got that memo today. As always, Judge got the ball rolling with one in the first on a double, coming around to score on a Josh Donaldson single off the left-field wall. Being the second-half Yankees, it shouldn’t be surprising that Donaldson got thrown out at second for the third out of the inning because he sauntered out of the box, thinking that he had a home run. Even with that TOOTBLAN, Donaldson gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
Two innings later, the improbable happened: Marwin Gonzalez homered.
Yes, that’s right. Gonzalez, who had not recorded a hit since July 6th, a hit against a non-position player pitcher since July 2nd, or an extra-base hit since June 28th, sent one into the right-field seats. A moonshot it was not, traveling just 364 feet, having an exit velocity of just 97.0 mph and an xBA on the interstate (.140). It was a run all the same, however, giving the Yankees an early 2-0 lead.
The Twins caused a scare when Sánchez hit the aforementioned bomb to knot the game at 2-2 and nearly took the lead in the fifth. But in the home half of the sixth, the probable happened: Aaron Judge homered.
At this point in the season, I’m running out of adjectives to describe Judge homers. The stats, as always, are mindboggling: 109.6 mph exit velocity, 404 feet, .840 xBA. It was historic, tying Alex Rodriguez for the most home runs in a season by a Yankees right-handed hitter with 54. Most importantly, it was two runs, as Gleyber Torres had led off the inning with a single to right field, giving the Yankees a 4-2 lead.
The next inning, the almost-impossible happened: Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered.
It was just IKF’ss second home run of the season and his first in 58 games at Yankee Stadium, but it couldn’t come at a better time for the much-maligned shortstop, who has been criticized for his defense and mired in a slump (.200/.286/.260 slash since August 14th) while watching New York promote two possible replacements (Cabrera and Oswald Peraza). It was 99 mph off the bat, 370 feet into the seats, and good for a 5-2 lead.
And that’s all that the Yankees would need. Greg Weissert, Wandy Peralta, and Clay Holmes would combine for four scoreless innings. Things got a little sticky in the seventh, as Weissert walked Gilberto Celestino and Carlos Correa to put runners on first and second with one out; Peralta, however, induced a 5-5-3 double play off the bat of Jose Miranda to end the threat.
Not everything about this game was positive. Jose Trevino continued his slump by grounding into a pair of double plays, while both Donaldson and Gonzalez added extra stress to the pitching staff with a pair of errors. Most importantly, Giancarlo Stanton fouled a ball off his toe and although he finished the at-bat, he was removed from the game (postgame X-rays on his foot were negative). Much like yesterday’s win being followed by the news that Andrew Benintendi needed surgery, it seems like the Yankees just can’t win without some kind of loss these days.
At the end of the day, though, a win is a win (just as Matt said yesterday). Weissert gets credit for the victory, improving to 2-0, while Trevor Megill falls to 3-2 and Holmes earns his 19th save. With the Red Sox and Rays still playing, the 81-54 Yankees will at worst remain five games up in the division, and could stretch their lead to six.
The Yankees and Twins continue their series tomorrow night, with Gerrit Cole up against Joe Ryan as New York looks to clinch its 30th consecutive winning season. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET, and will be an Amazon Prime-exclusive game.